The RLA and the NMB

The Railway Labor Act or “RLA” is the federal labor law that governs railroads and airlines. The National Mediation Board or “NMB” is the federal agency that administers many of the provisions of the RLA.

You have the right to decide to be represented by a union or to remain union-free without interference, influence or coercion by either Delta, a union or other employees.
  • A union must obtain A-cards from 50 percent or more of the workgroup to seek an election. Each A-card “must be signed and dated in the employee’s own handwriting” and may contain the employee’s job title and employee number. No other information, including your address, email or telephone number is required by law. Read more about A-Cards here.
  • A signed A-card is valid for one year.
    To be elected, a union must obtain votes from only the majority of those in the workgroup that decide to vote. It does not need votes from the majority of the workgroup.
  • If a union is elected, negotiations initially involve direct meetings between management and union representatives. If an agreement is not reached (which is often the case), NMB mediators become involved. While the NMB cannot force a contract on the parties, it has the ultimate authority to decide when further negotiations are futile. Initial negotiations under the RLA typically take a number of years to complete.
  • When parties are unable to reach agreement with the assistance of the NMB, they can agree to have outside arbitrators decide the content of the contract. If the parties don’t agree to arbitration, the NMB can release the parties to “self-help” – potentially meaning the union may call a strike and the company may impose pay, benefits and work rules.
  • Considering the post-merger sizes of American, United, Delta and Southwest, many industry observers believe it is highly unlikely any major workgroup would be released from negotiations to strike at these carriers.
  • These industry observers also believe the President of the United States would most likely establish a “Presidential Emergency Board” or “PEB” (an arbitration board) to suggest contract terms to the parties. If those terms are not accepted by both sides, Congress could thereafter step in to impose a contract.

RLA Collective Bargaining Mediation Process

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